Community engagement is crucial for nonprofit organizations | Philanthropy


Nonprofits thrive on contributions from donors. Likewise, community members thrive through the services provided by these organizations, such as fundraisers and community events. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, organizations in northeast Ohio had to adapt in order to continue engaging with the communities they serve.

Joan Katz Napoli, vice president of education and community programs at the Cleveland Orchestra, and Vicki McDonald, director of communications at JumpStart Inc. in Cleveland, said community engagement is vital for both organizations and the communities in which they are found.

McDonald’s said JumpStart provides services and connections to help entrepreneurs grow, researchers market, and businesses innovate. When it comes to reaching entrepreneurs – both tech startups and small businesses – they need to connect with them in different ways to ensure that local entrepreneurs know about and have access to the free resources that are at their disposal.

She added that events have always been the primary way to connect with clients, as events help foster connections and allow entrepreneurs to learn from networking and peer learning.

Some of these events look like pitch competitions, workshops, investment question-and-answer sessions, town halls, and an “unfiltered founders” series that includes candid conversations with tech entrepreneurs from the North East. from Ohio and across the country.

Prior to COVID-19, the Cleveland Orchestra had community programs at different locations in the community, including school programs. Due to the pandemic, he had to adapt to a more virtual offer.

One of those programs included a new digital streaming service called Adella, named after Cleveland Orchestra founder Adella Prentiss Hughes. This set in motion a series of digital offerings from The Cleveland Orchestra, featuring musicians, and delivered programs in their series called “In Focus”.

The orchestra also launched a weekly podcast series called “On a Personal Note” which featured a Cleveland Orchestra musician or guest talking about themselves and a piece of music that was important to them.

As things slowly started to open up again, the orchestra gave outdoor concerts over the summer at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. It has also hosted outdoor community festivals in recent months, such as One World Day and the Hispanic Heritage Festival.

He will return to concerts in person next week at Severance Music Center in Cleveland, with COVID protocols, but will still maintain a digital presence.

“I think the digital content that has been created is still very valuable,” Napoli said. “And teachers are looking forward to that, too. It really helped us reach a lot of people and gave teachers more resources than they’ve ever had before.

McDonald said JumpStart has also invested in resources to help them be a little better at producing and sharing content. But in-person networking is still vital, she added.

“We continue to do this,” McDonald said. “I think we have improved. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to replace the benefits of networking in person by making those relationships and connections. Because for entrepreneurs it can be a really tough and lonely journey. So these events really help foster the networking and the connections you need to make and we’ve found that virtual networking just isn’t quite the same.

Whether virtual or in-person, McDonald’s said it is essential for organizations like theirs to engage with the community, as it helps reach the people who need the organization’s support. It also helps build relationships and trust.

It sounds ambitious, ”said McDonald. “But this cannot be achieved without community ties and collaboration. So it is very beneficial, of course, for entrepreneurs to connect to the many free resources that are available to them to help them be successful. But it is also very important for us to achieve our mission, because we cannot do this work alone. “

Napoli said they never take the community for granted. The orchestra wants to give back to everyone in Cleveland, whether in the suburbs, downtown and elsewhere.

“In short, without Cleveland and Clevelanders, the Cleveland Orchestra would not exist, outright,” said Napoli. “So it’s always our goal and part of our mission to give back to the community that supports us, to be part of the community, to be of service to the community and to enrich the community in any way we can. We know how lucky we are to have such a united community.

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